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What I learnt from the NSDF's online talks...

Are you feeling uninspired, as another day goes by in isolation? Me too! In fact, everyone too. These were exactly my thoughts as I scrolled through Twitter, the home of my Theatre updates, to find that NSDF (National Student Drama Festival) were holding an online festival full of talks on everything theatrical during a week in April. Perfect! For this one week I would dedicate my spare time to tuning into various successful directors, actors and writers online. I felt the things I had taken away were important, to encourage other theatre makers and artists during isolation to remain resilient. We will get through this, and soon enough we will be back to our studios, offices and theatres making new work. But for now, enjoy these top tips…

One talk that stood out was named, Playing The Game With Your Own Rules: Staying true to yourself in the industry, delivered over the Zoom app by Angus Imrie and Nima Taleghani. This was about rejection, a common word heard in the theatre industry, but I think the reason it resonated with me was because it was applicable to any path in life. This advice was: don’t change who you are. Imrie gave the example of an actor going into the audition room, being declined from the role and being told it was because the auditionee was ‘too’ of one thing, or ‘not enough’ of the other. Imrie passionately followed this example by saying that this is something you have to accept, because one day you will not be ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’, you will be perfect for that opportunity that comes your way. More importantly, know yourself enough that you know why you chose that interpretation of a role, presumably because that was how you believed was the best. Yes, reflect on why it didn’t work, or how to improve, but don’t knock yourself down. Taleghani continues, that it’s actually not your business if someone doesn’t want to work with you. Instead, your closure is knowing that what you’ve done was your best, and that’s all you can do. So, in this time of disappointment and struggle, let us find peace in ourselves as artists.

Another great segment from the NSDF fest was the Directing Q&A by, Emma Rice. This was particularly interesting for myself due to my passion for directing, the following bullet points summarise advice from Rice herself:

• Choose stories that are personally relevant to you. Do something that can answer ‘why now?’ instead of with intentions of ‘to be clever’ or ‘because they haven’t done this play in the last 10 years on a stage’.

• Once you have chosen your actors don’t second guess yourself or them, it is now your job to bring out the best of them.

• Make the room ‘yes focused’.

• She finds it justified to not analyse the text too much in early rehearsals because she sees putting a performance on as simply, story-telling. She feels there is no need to complicate or create obstacles in the text, that can’t be solved during just a read-through anyway.

Furthermore, a very important message that was brought to my attention through the range of talks was networking! The taboo of approaching big theatres, such as Bristol Old Vic, was broken, with many advising to shoot your shot with applications or submissions- there is nothing to lose! Along with this came another key message, don’t think that the only place for theatre to flourish is London. In fact, London is saturated with artists, and there are so many other places around the UK that are suitable for any artist to blossom, such as Cornwall (home to successful theatre Company, Kneehigh). Do not feel that if you live outside of London, then your chance is tainted. This is simply, NOT TRUE!

I hope this small insight into the NSDF festival has brought some light during this dark time to all the artists and students out there. NSDF Festival was a great thing to come out of this strange time, and I hope that as many of you were able to take advantage of it too! But if not, I hope this has given you some inspiration and motivation. And remember, we will be back to creating and sharing very soon! Keep safe.

More information about projects happening with NSDF can be found on their website.

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